I saw a post from Archons March On about this quarter hour of writing challenge from Library of Attnam, who I was not previously tracking. I’m going to do 25 minutes instead because that’s how long the pomodoro normally goes for and that’s the only way I will actually buckle down and do it.
A good prompt for someone still running a post-post-apocalyptic hard(ish) SF game with at least a possibility for further space travel. There’s a post at Rotten Pulp I’ve been marinating on about a creature called a Contaminant that doesn’t explicitly name radiation but has a lot of the same considerations. There’s also a post from Incunabula about radioactive sorcerer organs (Slumbers) that I used in my last game that springs to mind. They’re real good, go read them! Was going to put a caveat that my players shouldn’t read about the Contaminant but honestly don’t think it would matter.
How will I use radiation in my game? I’ll probably utilize Contaminants in certain areas tied to certain threads (secrets). The post itself has a lot of good examples of telegraphing danger that are broadly applicable for any kind of invisible hazard. The negative effects of being in the same space as such a creature (e.g. blurry vision, heat, bloody cough, etc) are broadly applicable to other sources as well.
Where a Contaminant is a mobile hazard, more fixed and difficult to bypass blockers could be used in dungeons to block off areas of interest. Power leaks, radioactive explosive residue, or alien technology are all possible emitters. In a tech-poor environment like my players are in, these might hopefully inspire creative use of limited resources to bypass. A fixed locale also lets you use more environmental warning signs like red trees, strange spider webs, or other animal tweaks.
How do you mechanically represent accumulating radiation damage? The first thought I had was clocks. Maybe you have three levels of clock like this:
Minor Effects (2-4 slices)
Moderate Effects (6-8 slices)
Severe Effects (12 slices)
All three clocks get filled concurrently with exposure so a minor effect will pop off earliest to clue the players in that they are in a bad spot. When a clock fills and the player suffers an effect the clock resets and starts filling again. Rolls on effects tables are increased based on how many conditions are currently affecting the player (e.g. two Sever Effects gives a +2 on your next Severe roll).
I’d make some tables of effects but I’m already a bit over time! Oops.
Oh but you should also totally make a dragon with radioactive breath.